The USS Enterprise has been missing for seven years, but nobody on board knows. As far as they know, they have been living their normal, everyday lives. Little do they realize that almost exactly a third of their crew is dead—people die in Starfleet, you know?

Like Doctor Pulaski. She's dead, but no one onboard the Enterprise knows. She beamed away with a smile and disappeared forever. Transporter accident, although the readings received on our end said she reached the surface just fine.

Doctor Pulaski was always afraid of transporters. Isn't it interesting, how sometimes our worst fears can turn out to be perfectly valid?

And then there's Doctor Crusher—well, at least, the fake version of Doctor Crusher that he created to placate the captain. He knows he loves her, even the fake her, so he hasn't been asking too many questions. None at all, actually, even though he did wonder why Beverly would suddenly be demoted. His little experiment has been running perfectly for the past seven years.

And now it is coming to a close.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard was sitting at his desk, reviewing a PADD that held the schedule for the next week, when his communicator buzzed.

"Crusher to Picard."

"Go ahead," the captain said, tapping his communicator.

"It's Ensign Bachler, sir...she died in childbirth. There was nothing I could do."

Picard sat back. "And the child?"

"Also dead."

"Thank you for notifying me," the captain said, not sure what else to say. "And…I'm sorry, Doctor. Picard out."

He kept sitting in his chair, letting his PADD rest on his lap. Picard wasn't sure that anyone had ever died from childbirth on the Enterprise before, and he was appropriately horrified.

Lately, it seemed that the death count onboard his ship had been rising. He knew that five years ago, it had taken a sharp incline on a year by year basis, but then it had remained steady at the high point. Over the past few weeks, however, almost twenty people had passed on, most of them by natural causes. And he didn't like it.

There was something funny about all of this, and not ha-ha funny, either. Captain Picard would get to the bottom of it. He reached for his communicator to tell Geordi to scan for…something, but then he stopped.

What if they had all just died of natural causes? What if he was being cautious to the point of paranoia about nothing at all?

He sighed. Surely he could call a staff meeting, at least. "Picard to Riker."

"Go ahead, Captain," came the voice of his first officer.

"Staff meeting. One hour," Picard said. "Notify the rest of the senior staff."

"Aye, sir." And with that, the channel closed. Picard kept sitting, staring at nothing in particular, not aware of the eyes that were watching his every move with concern and bewilderment.